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Cory Sullivan had just graduated from business school. He had one dream, and that was to open his own restaurant someday. Until then, he worked at his father's restaurant as a waiter, until he could pay off his debts, and until he could afford to open a restaurant. Cory never thought he would do anything else with his life. He never saw himself falling in love with the perfect woman, but that was all about to change. It was just another spring day in Napa, California. Cory was waiting tables during the six-o-clock dinner rush. One of the tables was of two young women, enjoying a girls' night out. "Hi, I'm Cory Sullivan, and I'll be your server for tonight," he said to the woman. "What can I get you to drink?" "I'd like coffee, please," said one woman. "Regular or decaf?" "Regular, please, and can I get some cream?" "Yes." He turned to the other woman. "And, you?" "I'd like iced tea, please." "Ooh, nice accent," Cory flirted. "Where're you from?" The woman giggled and blushed. "I'm from Dublin, Ireland." "Oh, cool. My family's Irish, too." He changed the subject back to drinks. "Um, sweetened or unsweetened tea?" "Sweetened, please." "Okay. I'll be right back with your drinks." Cory was about to leave the table, when he noticed the woman drawing on a napkin. "I like your drawing," he said nervously. "Are you an artist?" "I like to believe I am," she said. "Well, you're really good. I wouldn't be surprised if you were." "Thank you." "I'm sorry if I'm… harassing you. I should probably go get your drinks." "No, it's alright. You're not bothering me at all." "Oh, well, then, what's your name?" "I'm Lisa, and this is my dear friend, Chloe." "It's nice to meet you, Lisa. Well, I'll be back with your drinks." "Okay." As Cory left to get the drinks, Chloe smiled at Lisa, and giggled. "He's so cute!" she exclaimed. "I know!" Lisa giggled. "And, he's such a sweetheart." "Very." Lisa beamed and blushed. "Oh, my gosh. You like him!" "I do not!" Lisa giggled. "Yes, you do! I saw the look on your face when he complimented your drawing. Admit it. You like him!" "Okay, I like him, but I barely know him." "Honey, that's what dating's for."
Just then, Cory returned with the ladies' drinks. "Here you go, ladies," he said charmingly, placing the drinks on the table. "Are you ready to order?" "Yes. I'll have the Eight-Ounce Prime Rib," said Chloe. "How would you like that?" "Medium." "And, you, Lisa?" Lisa smiled. "I'd like a veggie burger, please." "With French fries?" "Yes." "Okay." Once again, Cory was just leaving the table, but turned around again. "Uh, Lisa?" "Yes." "I know this… might be a bit forward," Cory stuttered, "but… I get off work early on Friday. Would you like to go out with me… for dinner?" "Yes!" Lisa replied excitedly. "I would absolutely love to!" "Okay. Can I get your number?" "I have it," Chloe said hastily, digging through her purse, and pulling out a small card. "Here. It's her number and address." Cory chuckled. "Wow, I guess you were preparing for this moment for a while, huh?" Lisa and Chloe laughed. "Well, I'll be back with your food in a few."
Friday afternoon, Chloe was helping Lisa get ready for her date. "What about this dress?" Chloe held up a long, white, strapless dress. "I love it!" Lisa beamed at the dress. "It's my favorite!" "I know. Why do you think I picked it?" Chloe joked. Lisa giggled. "Let's do your makeup before you put it on." After Lisa was dressed and made over, she looked at herself in the mirror, and smiled. Then, she turned to Chloe. "Thank you, Chloe," she said, giving Chloe a hug. "You're welcome, Sweetie." Minutes later, Cory arrived at Lisa's house, shaved, showered, and dressed up, to pick her up. He watched, breathlessly, as Lisa gracefully walked out the front door, and down the stairs. "Wow!" he exhaled, stunned. "You look… beautiful." "Thank you." Lisa stared at him for a few seconds, and smiled sweetly. "You look so handsome." "I do my best," Cory flirted. Lisa chuckled. "You did a wonderful job." Cory blushed. "Come on. Let's go." "Where are we going?" Lisa asked as she climbed into the car. "I'm taking you to Il Fornaio." "Oh, a romantic, Italian restaurant?" "Yep." At Il Fornaio, Cory and Lisa sat at a private table with dim lighting and candlelight. "This is beautiful," Lisa commented. "Such a romantic spot." She gave Cory a flirty smile. "Are you trying to seduce me?" "Absolutely," Cory flirted. Lisa giggled. "Is it working?" "Slowly." "Good. That's how I wanted it to work." Lisa giggled sweetly. "So, what were you drawing yesterday?" "I was drawing Chloe." "It was beautiful." "Aww, thank you." "Do you draw a lot?" "Yes, and I paint and sculpt. I love art and music." "Music? You're a musician, too?" "Yes. I sing, play piano and guitar, and I write music, too." "I bet you make the most beautiful music in the world." "Awww." "What else do you do?"
"I write poetry." "Wow, you're very artistic." "Everything I create comes from my heart. When I draw or paint or sculpt people or things, it's an interpretation of how I view them, and it comes straight from the heart." Cory lost his breath for a moment. "Wow. You're amazing!" "You are, too." Cory blushed. "I don't think I'm nearly as amazing as you." "Don't say that," Lisa said sweetly. "You are." "Well, thanks." Just then, the waitress stopped by the table. "Good evening," she said. "I'm April, and I'll be your server for tonight. What can I get you to drink?" "I'd like an iced tea, please," said Lisa. "Sweetened or unsweetened?" "Sweetened." "Okay. What about you, sir?" "I'll have the same," said Cory. "Okay. Are you ready to order, or do you still need a minute?" "We need a minute." "Okay. Well, I'll be right back." Cory and Lisa picked up their menus as April left the table to fetch their drinks. "Okay," Cory sighed, reading over the menu. "I think I want… the Insalata del Fornaio for my salad, and a calzone for the main course." "Okay. I think I'll have soup instead of salad. The Minestrone di Verdure looks delicious, and I think I'll have that with… the Capellini al Pomodoro." "Are you a vegetarian?" "Yes." "That's awesome." "Thank you." Lisa giggled. "I love your laugh." Lisa giggled again. "If we still have room, what do you want for dessert?" "I think I'll have the Zabaione alla Gritti." "That looks real good. I think I'll have the same." "Okay." "Okay, I'm really hungry now." Lisa laughed. "Me, too."
After dinner, Lisa decided to drive Cory to a quiet park. She grabbed her bag out of the car, and Cory took in the beautiful sight of nature. "Wow, this is beautiful," Cory exhaled. "Let's sit by the fountain," said Lisa as she took Cory's hand, and lead him to a breathtaking fountain in the middle of the park. "Sit down." They both sat on a bench by the fountain. "Wow, this is so relaxing," said Cory. "Isn't it beautiful?" "Yeah. It's a beautiful park. It's a beautiful fountain that makes a beautiful sound, and I get to enjoy it with the most beautiful woman on the planet." "Awww, Cory." Lisa wrapped her arm around Cory's neck. "Well, you are the most beautiful man on the planet." "I know we just met, but… I think I'm already falling in love with you." "I believe in love at first sight, and now, I absolutely know it exists." "I never used to believe in it… until now." "Awww." "So, what do you do for a living?" "I give both private art lessons and private music lessons." "Wow, you're a hard worker. What do you teach in art and music?" "In art, I teach my students all about expressing their emotions through art. I teach all kinds of things. I teach painting, ceramics, sculpting, drawing, and photography. In music, I teach my students all about expressing their emotions through singing, playing the piano, or playing guitar. I've even shared some of my own music with them to give them a deeper idea of expression. I do the same with my art students. I share my own work with them." "You really are passionate about art and music." "I love it very much." Lisa bent over, and opened her bag. She pulled out a large sketch pad and a paint set. "Go stand in front of the fountain." "Wait. Are you gonna paint me?" Cory asked, blushing. "You'll see." Cory stood in front of the fountain, smiling at Lisa. "Relax," said Lisa. "I'm relaxed," said Cory. Lisa only took a few minutes to finish her painting. When she finished, she placed a small paperweight on the page to keep it down until the paint dried. "Okay, I'm finished. Come see." Cory sauntered over to Lisa, and stared at her painting. He wiped tears from his eyes as he knelt down next to her. "I painted you as an angel in nature." "That's beautiful," Cory sniffled. Lisa saw the tears in Cory's eyes. "Awww, come here, Sweetie." She wrapped her arms around him, and held him. "I'm so happy you love it." "I do," said Cory, trying to dry his tears. "Damn," he chuckled, embarrassed. "I usually don't cry in front of other people."
"It's alright," Lisa said sweetly. "Crying is good for the soul. It's part of what makes you human. We all have emotions, and it's healthy to release them." "Yeah, but most men don't cry." "Don't listen to those stereotypes. It's okay to cry." "Thanks, Lisa. At least I know you won't tease me." "No. Your tears made me fall in love with you even more." "That's one of the sweetest things I've ever been told." "It's true." For a few seconds, they were both quiet. They just listened to the sound of the water flowing in the fountain, and looked at each other. "Do you have a dream?" Lisa asked after a moment. "A dream?" Cory enquired. "Like, what do you really want to do with your life?" "Well, I've always wanted to open my own restaurant. I'm just working at my dad's until I can afford it, and I'm paying off my debts from business school." "I'd be happy to help you pay." "No, you don't have to." "I want to, and you don't even have to pay me back." "You would really do that for me?" "Absolutely. How much do you owe?" "I paid off $1,500 so far. I still have another $2,500 to pay, though." "That's no problem, Sweetie." "You're so giving, and you don't even ask for anything in return. That's another thing I love about you." "Awww." "What about you? What's your dream?" "I'd like to sell my art, and become an artist. I'd also like to become a professional musician. I've always wanted to record and release my own album." "Wow," Cory chuckled. "Kinda makes my dream sound… lame." "Don't say that. Your dream is just as wonderful. It is not lame at all, and I'll help you with it." "I'll do my best to help you with yours, too. Maybe you can sing and play at my restaurant, and I'll even display your artwork there." "Chloe is such a wonderful cook. I'll talk to her. Maybe she'd like to be your chef." "Wow, we're planning out our lives together already." "I love doing that, especially with you." "Me, too." Lisa gently lifted the page of her sketch pad, and felt the back of it. "I'm checking to see if the paint's dry." She gently rubbed her fingers against the paint. "Yep, it's dry. I can close the pad now." "No, don't. Keep it open. I wanna keep looking at it." "Okay, Sweetie." "Can I look at your other paintings?" "Of course."
Cory flipped through the pages, and his heart nearly stopped as he took in Lisa's brilliant paintings. "Who was your first love?" Lisa asked randomly. "Huh?" Cory suddenly came back to Earth. "Who was your first love?" Cory hesitated. "Her name was Crysta Rosenberg. She was my girlfriend in high school." "How long were you together?" "Almost three years, until senior year." "What happened?" "She just… disappeared. With no warning or reasons why, she just… disappeared. I never saw her again." "Oh, Cory, I'm so sorry." "You know, the sad thing is… she promised me she'd never leave me. Ever since then, I never dated or even looked at another girl… until now. It's taken me over ten years to get over her. I finally decided to move on, but it's still painful to think about her." "Well, I'll be here to help you heal from your pain." "Really? You're not pissed that I still miss Crysta?" "No, Sweetie. A broken heart takes time to heal." "I'm healing a lot faster now, because of you. I was nuts about Crysta, but my feelings for her were never as strong as the feelings I have for you. If I ever lost you, I'd probably die." "You'll never lose me. I will never leave you. I promise." "You have no idea how much that means to me." "You don't know what you mean to me, Baby." Cory's jaw dropped. "Did you just call me 'Baby?'" "Yes, because you are my baby." "You're my angel." "Aww, Cory." Lisa leaned in, and kissed Cory passionately. Then, she looked in his eyes, and she could see how much he truly loved her. He looked in her eyes, and he, too, could see her love for him. He held her close to his heart. She pressed her ear against his chest. "I can hear your heart beating," Lisa cried. Cory leaned over, and pressed his ear against Lisa's chest. "I can hear yours, too." Then, he kissed her softly. "Lisa?" he whispered, looking her straight in the eye. "I love you, Lisa." Lisa burst into tears of joy. "I love you, too, Cory."
Cory and Lisa spent a few more minutes in each other's arms in the park. Then, Lisa drove Cory back to her house. They stepped through the front door, and Cory looked around. To him, Lisa just kept getting more and more amazing. Her drawings and paintings were all over the wall. Her ceramic sculptures were displayed on the shelves in the living room, and her piano sat proudly next to the shelves. "Wow, your house is beautiful," said Cory. "Thank you." "So, how long have you been teaching?" "About ten years. How long have you been working at your father's restaurant?" "A few months." "Are you enjoying it?" "Yeah. My dad's cool, and I like waiting tables. I mean, if it wasn't for that, I never would've met you." "Well, I'm thankful for that." "What about you? Do you like your job?" "I love it." "Will you sing for me?" "Of course." Lisa sat at her piano with Cory at her side. "I wrote this song a few years ago. It's called 'Take Me With You.'" She played and sang beautifully. Cory wiped tears from his eyes, and leaned on her shoulder as she continued playing and singing. She kissed his forehead. When she finished, she held him as he cried, and dried his tears. "Shh. It's alright, Baby." She sweetly kissed his lips. "Come with me." Cory followed Lisa into the backyard, where he saw her overwhelmingly beautiful flower garden. "Did you plant those flowers?" he asked. "Yes." "That's a lot of flowers. You must've worked really hard on them." "I did, and I enjoyed it. Gardening is part of my art. I even made a ceramic scarecrow." Cory looked at the scarecrow, and couldn't stop smiling. "That's the coolest scarecrow I've ever seen." "I thought you'd like it." "I love your work, so duh," Cory teased. Lisa giggled. "You're so cute." "You're cuter." "No, you are." "No, you." "No, you!" "Alright!" Cory laughed. "Let's just agree that we're both cute." "That works for me," Lisa giggled. "Okay." "Let's go back inside. I have something I want to give you."
Back inside, Lisa took one of her ceramic sculptures off the shelf, and handed it to Cory. It was a sculpture she made of herself. It looked exactly like her. The painting and the shape was so realistic. "I made this a few years ago. It's one of my favorite pieces of art." Cory held the sculpture, and looked at it. "Is that you?" "Yes. It was something I made to remind myself that I, like everyone else in this world, am beautiful. Anytime I start to doubt myself, I look at that statue, and I remember my good qualities. I remember that I am beautiful." "Are you sure you wanna give it away?" "Yes, because I want you to know that you're never alone. Even when I'm not with you physically, I'm still there in spirit. You can look at my statue, and speak to it. If you listen with your heart, you'll hear me answer." "Thank you, Lisa." "You're welcome, Sweetheart." "Well, it's getting late," Cory yawned. "I know. I think you should go home, and get some sleep." "Okay, and tomorrow, I want you to meet my family." "I'd love to." "I'll see you tomorrow afternoon, then." "Okay. Just call me, and let me know what time." "I will." Cory kissed Lisa once more. "Good night, Lisa." "Good night, Cory. I love you, Baby." "I love you, too, Angel." As Cory walked out of the house, and drove away, Lisa looked at her sculptures. Then, she pulled a bag of clay out of her art supply cabinet, and began creating another ceramic sculpture.
The next day, Lisa was to meet with Cory at his father's restaurant. She wore a lovely, elegant, pink, knee-length dress, and matching sandals. She drove up to the restaurant at about four-o-clock, and saw Cory, dressed in a maroon, silk shirt, black dress pants, and matching shoes. She got out of her car, and ran to him, throwing her arms around him, and kissing him. "Hi, Sweetheart!" she greeted cheerfully. "Hey!" Cory greeted, kissing her cheek. "You look great!" "So do you!" "My parents are on their way." "They're not working today?" "No, we have weekend staff." "Oh, okay. Are we eating here?" "Yep." "I'm actually excited about meeting your parents." "Good, because they are going to love you." Lisa smiled at Cory. At that moment, Cory's parents arrived. Cory looked in the car window. "Ah, crap," he sighed nervously. "What's wrong?" asked Lisa. "They had to bring Caleb." "Who's Caleb?" "He's my brother?" "What's wrong with him?" "He's a huge pain in the ass." "Well, hopefully, tonight, he'll behave himself." "He better. I'll explain it later." "Okay." "Hi, Sweetie!" Mrs. Sullivan shouted from the inside of the car. "Hey, Mom!" Cory replied. Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan got out of the car with Caleb following. "Sweetheart!" Mrs. Sullivan exclaimed, throwing her arms around Cory, and kissing his cheeks. "How are you?!" "I'm good." "Hey, son," Mr. Sullivan greeted happily. "Hey, Dad." "Hey," Caleb greeted quietly. "Hey, Caleb," Cory said nervously. "Don't worry, Sweetie," said Mrs. Sullivan. "I told him to behave himself." "Mom," Caleb whined. "And, you must be Lisa!" Mrs. Sullivan hugged Lisa. "Oh, it's so nice to meet you! Cory has been bragging about you all day! He couldn't wait for us to meet you!" Lisa giggled sweetly. "It's so nice to meet you, too, Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan." "No need to be so formal," said Mr. Sullivan. "You can call me David."
"And, I go by Máiréad." "Oh, those are lovely names," Lisa said sweetly. "Well, yours is a lovely name, too, Miss Lisa," said David as they all slowly walked inside. "Thank you, David." "Now, I reserved our tables, so we don't need to wait in line." "Oh, good," Cory sighed in relief. Their table was near the kitchen. They all sat down together. "So, you're an artist?" Máiréad enquired. "Yes," said Lisa, "and a musician." "Cory showed us the statue you made of yourself," said David, "and he told us the whole story behind it. Splendid job, Darlin'." "Thank you," said Lisa. "He also tells us you make beautiful music," added Máiréad. "Aww, well, I love beautiful music." "I'd love to hear you play sometime," said David. "My guitar is in the car. I'll play and sing for you later if you'd like." "Absolutely!" "Caleb, Dear, you've been awfully quiet," Máiréad remarked. "You didn't even bother to say hello to Lisa." Caleb sighed, frustrated. "Mom—" "You promised you were going to be nice to your brother. Now, be nice, and say hello to his girlfriend." "Okay, hi," Caleb snapped. "Nicely." Caleb tried to calm down. "Hi." "That's more like it."
After dinner, the Lisa followed the Sullivans back to their home. They all went into the living room, and sat down on the sofa to hear Lisa's music. Lisa laid her guitar on her lap. "This song is called 'Sunset of Gold.' It's about finding a better place in this world. This song is very important to me, because even with all the things going on in the world today, I still believe that we'll find a better place." "Just play the damn song," Caleb sighed, irritated. "Hey!" David shouted. "Lisa is a guest in our home, and you will be nice to her." "Whatever." "Shut up, Caleb," said Cory. "I'm sorry, Lisa. Go ahead and play." Lisa began to play and sing. Cory felt weak, and his heart beat faster. David and Máiréad wiped floods of tears from their eyes. Caleb, however, showed no emotion. When she finished, everyone applauded her, even Caleb. "That was lovely, Darlin'!" David exclaimed proudly. "Just beautiful!" "Thank you," said Lisa. Máiréad blew her nose. "I'm sorry," she wept. "I thought there was an angel in the room for a minute. That was beautiful, Sweetheart." Cory kissed Lisa. "Aww, thank you," Lisa said sweetly. "Thank you all so much." "Yeah, that was… great," Caleb said hesitantly. "Thank you," Lisa said awkwardly. "Do you go to church?" David asked randomly. Lisa nodded. "Yes." "Which one?" "Northgate Christian Fellowship. I go every Sunday. I go to the eleven-oclock service, and I sing at the end." "We'll have to come to church with you one Sunday." "Oh, I'd love that." Lisa spent about two more hours with the Sullivans. Then, she decided to go home. "It was so nice meeting you," said Máiréad, giving Lisa a hug. "I hope we see a lot more of you." "You will," Lisa chuckled. "I enjoyed my visit with you all." "Even Caleb?" David joked. "Yes, even Caleb," Lisa said with a sweet grin. "You're all very delightful." Caleb rolled his eyes. "Well, I'll see you all soon." "Okay," said Cory. "I'll call you tomorrow." He kissed Lisa. "I love you." "I love you, too, Baby." Lisa smiled at Cory and his family one more time, and then, she walked out the door. Everyone glared at Caleb. "What?!" Caleb snapped. "What was with all the crap you gave Lisa tonight?" Cory asked angrily.
"What are you talking about?" "Well, let's see," David chimed in. "You didn't even bother to say hello to her. You barely said a word to her at dinner, and you were downright rude to her when she was nice enough to play for us." "Oh, like when she was giving her speech about wanting to find a 'better place in this world?' Is that what you mean?" "Yes." "And, don't think we didn't see you roll your eyes at Lisa," added Máiréad. "Why were you being so disrespectful?" "I don't wanna talk about it," Caleb whined. "Well, that's just too bad, Mr." "Look, I'm not a child!" "No, but you're acting like one right now." Caleb sighed. "I was just in a bad mood. I'm sorry." "That's all?" "Yeah." "Okay," said David. "We'll let it slide this time." David and Máiréad quietly sauntered into the living room. Meanwhile, Cory grabbed Caleb's arm. "We're not done." He dragged him out to the back porch, and closed the door. "Now, I wanna know the truth." "Why are you making a big deal out of this?" Caleb sighed. "Because, this isn't the first time you've been an ass to me. You've always had a problem with the people I chose to hang with, and it's always the best people you hate the most. Why?" "I'm just tryin' to protect you!" "From what?!" "There's something phony about people like that! They try to pretend to be the best people in the world, until they come back, and slap you in the face with who they really are!" "You don't even know Lisa!" Cory shouted. "Well, neither do you!" "What's that supposed to mean?" "You just met her a few days ago, and you only had one date with her! You're already falling head-over-heals in love with her! Call me crazy, but there's something fishy about that!" "It's called 'love at first sight!' Ever heard of it?!" "Yeah, but it's not real. It doesn't exist." "You know what? I'm done here. You're not worth my time." "Fine, but don't come cryin' to me when she breaks your heart." "Trust me. I won't, because that's never gonna happen." Cory gave Caleb one more evil look, and then, he stormed off.
The next day, during the afternoon, Lisa was working on her new ceramic sculpture, when the phone rang. "Hello?" she answered. "Hey, Lisa," said a cheerful Cory. "Hi, Sweetheart. How are you?" "I'm good. You?" Lisa giggled. "I'm doing just great." "Hey, listen. I'm sorry about my brother last night." "It's okay. I love your family." "Well, I had a little talk with him." "Okay." "I don't get why he doesn't like you." "Cory, it's alright. I love your entire family." "Yeah, but he should return the love," Cory chuckled. "Besides, if we ever get married in the future, he won't have a choice, because you'll be part of the family." Lisa grinned. "I like the idea of being a part of your family." "Well, after last night, you definitely are. My parents love you. Told you they would." "Your parents are delightful, and your mother reminds me a little of myself. She's so cheerful and positive." "Yeah, she's awesome." "You seem to get along with your parents quite well." "Yeah, I do. Do you get along with yours?" "Yes. As a matter of fact, I'd like you to meet my family someday." "I'd love to!" "I've been bragging about you to them, and they're looking forward to meeting you." "You brag about me?" Cory joked. "I'm that awesome?" Lisa laughed. "Of course, Baby." "Wow." "I love you." "I love you, too, Angel." "Awww." As spring passed, and summer began, the love between Lisa and Cory only grew stronger. They shared every detail of their lives. They were with each other constantly, and they were inseparable. They were each other's song. Together, they were the melody of life. Their love for each other proved to other people that love at first sight was possible, and that true love was still alive. Lisa made Cory feel as if he was in love with a real angel, and Cory made Lisa feel like she was in love with a true saint. Yes, their love was true and unbreakable. One evening, in early June, Lisa was at Cory's house. The two were snuggling on the sofa in the living room while watching a sweet, romantic movie.
Lisa wrapped a blanket around them both. Cory kissed her, and she rested her head on his shoulder. They both began to slip into a daydream. Suddenly, the sound of the doorbell ringing brought them both back to Earth. "Excuse me," said Cory, struggling to get up from the couch. He approached the door, hoping it was only a short visit from someone, so he could get back to his romantic evening with Lisa. He opened the door, and saw a young, blonde woman standing in front of him. His jaw suddenly dropped open in shock. "Crysta?"
"Hi, Cory," said Crysta. "W-what are you doing here?" Cory stuttered. "I came to see you. I missed you. I wanted to pick up where we left off." "You mean, twelve years ago?" "Well, yeah." Cory suddenly felt very nervous. "Crysta, I'm sorry, but… I have a girlfriend now." "But… what about us?" "Crysta, there is no 'us' anymore." "Why not?" "You left without any warning. You didn't even tell me why you were leaving, or where you were going. You left me with a broken heart, Crysta—a broken heart that took over ten years to heal, and now, I've finally moved on." "But—" "You can't just waltz back into my life as if nothing happened. You just show up at my doorstep as if everything's fine, and we can be together again. We can't. I've moved on. I'm in love with someone else." "No!" Crysta tried not to cry. "Cory, you can't do this to me! You can't just turn your back on me! I love you!" "Well, I loved you, too, until you broke my heart." "Would you just let me explain?" "No. I waited for you for over ten years. I'm not waiting for you anymore." Lisa sauntered into the front hall. "Cory?" Cory suddenly turned around. "Who's this?" "Uhh… Lisa, this is Crysta," Cory stuttered. "Crysta, this is Lisa. She's my girlfriend now." "Hi, Crysta," Lisa said with a sweet smile, even though she felt so badly for poor Cory. "Look, Crysta, it's over," Cory said sternly. "But, Cory, I—" "Please leave." Cory closed the door, and looked at Lisa. "I'm so sorry about that," he sighed. Lisa could see the guilt in his eyes. "Come here," she said softly as she held him. "It's okay, Baby. It's okay." "Why do I feel so guilty?" "You were worried I would see Crysta, and automatically assume you were cheating on me." "I'm sorry, Lisa." "Cory, you didn't do anything wrong. She showed up out of nowhere, and expected to fall into your arms again. You handled it very well. I'm so proud of you. You don't need to be sorry. You don't need to feel guilty at all, Baby." "I don't love her anymore." "I know."
"I love you." "I love you, too, and no matter what she may do, I will never stop loving you. Even if she tries to press her lips against yours, that won't change how I feel about you. I'm not a jealous person, and I don't automatically jump to conclusions." "You're a rare bird." Lisa giggled. "You're a beautiful bird." "You're a beautiful angel." Cory blushed with tears in his eyes. "You really see me as an angel?" "Absolutely. Cory, you are the sweetest, kindness, and most wonderful man I have ever known, aside from my father. You are a precious creation from God, and you are a blessing to so many people. You don't even know just how loved you are." "I'm not like you. I'm not as forgiving as you." "That's okay. That doesn't make you any less wonderful. Sometimes, forgiveness takes time. I know you'll forgive Crysta for what she's done to you, but it'll take a little while." "Yeah. I'll forgive her sometime." "That doesn't make you a horrible person. I've told you so many times how wonderful you are, and I meant it. I still do." "Thank you so much." "And, I will always be there for you. I will help you through this difficult time, and I won't leave your side. I promise."
Two days later, Cory was having coffee with his best friend, James, at Starbucks. "So, she just shows up out of nowhere while you were with Lisa?" James enquired, shocked. "Yep," Cory replied, taking a sip of his coffee. "Wow, how did you handle that?" "I told her, over and over, that I had moved on, and I was in love with someone else. She wouldn't listen. Then, Lisa sneaked up behind me." "Ooh!" "She actually took it really well." "Oh, thank God." "Yeah." "Most people would go nuts when the ex shows up." "Yeah, but she didn't. She was very understanding." "She didn't even bitch-slap Crysta?" "Nope. She actually said hi." "Wow. Just when I think this girl can't get any better," James said as he took a sip of his coffee, "she does." "Yep. She's amazing, isn't she?" "Careful. I might steal her from you." Cory laughed. "You better not." James snickered. "I won't. I just wish I had a Lisa." "Doesn't everyone?" "Yep." "Well, except my dumb brother." "Yeah, well, your brother's an idiot." "Yeah," Cory scoffed. "He never likes any of my friends, especially the good ones." "He's a cynic." Cory laughed. Then, his emotions suddenly change to suspicion. "Why did Crysta suddenly show up?" "I don't know, man," James sighed. "I mean, just when I finally move on, and finally get over her, she comes back, and think she can just land in my arms as if nothing happened." "Sounds kinda fishy to me." Cory nodded in agreement. "Maybe someone called her." "Maybe, but if I don't know where she disappeared to, why would anyone else know?" "I don't know." "And, why would they do this to me?" "Maybe it's someone who wants to break you and Lisa up." "Well, it's not gonna happen." "Damn straight, and I'm gonna try and help you find out all the details."
"You know, I think I have an idea why she suddenly came back, and who was behind this." "Good." With that, the two finished their coffee.
That night, Cory and Lisa were taking a peaceful stroll through the neighborhood, when they suddenly ran into Crysta. Crysta beamed at Cory. "Hi, Cory," she greeted giddily. Cory decided it was time to confront Crysta about her reasons for her sudden return to Napa. He turned to Lisa. "Um, Lisa, will you excuse me for a second? I need to talk to Crysta." "Okay, Sweetie," Lisa said sweetly. She stood behind a grove of bushes to give the two some privacy. Cory sighed. "Okay, Crysta. I want the truth. Why are you really here? Why did you suddenly show up, and think we could pick up where we left of?" "I missed you," said Crysta, pouting. "Okay, see, that's what I don't get. If you really cared about me, why did you suddenly disappear in the first place?" "I had to move to Pittsburgh." "And, you didn't even bother to tell me? You didn't even say goodbye." "I couldn't." "Why?" "I just couldn't!" "That's not an answer! You're not answering any of my questions! Why couldn't you tell me, and why are you suddenly back?!" "I was too scared to tell you! I was afraid you would get mad at me, and I would lose you!" "Well, you did lose me, because you didn't tell me. Had you been honest with me, we could've found a way to make it work, but you're too late. I'm not in love with you anymore. I don't know how many times I have to tell you this before you finally get it. I love someone else now, which brings up the other question. Why did you suddenly come back?! And, don't tell me it's because you missed me. I know that's not the real reason." "I can't tell you." "You can't tell me?" Cory scoffed in frustration. "Here we go again! Why can't you just tell me the truth?!" "I was sworn to secrecy!" That statement confirmed Cory's suspicions. "What are you talking about?" "Someone called me," Crysta trembled. "Who?" "Your brother… called me." "What?" "He told me everything!" Crysta snapped. "He told me you were cheating on me with this phony bitch!" "How dare you," Cory growled angrily. "How dare you say that about Lisa, and how dare you accuse me of cheating on you!" "I didn't accuse you!"
"No, you and Caleb both accused me. You know, I'm sick of having to explain this to you! I waited for over ten years for you! I never even looked at another girl, because I was always praying you'd come back! My heart hurt for you every damn day, until I finally realized you wouldn't come back! I finally moved on, and I finally found someone I love. I did not cheat on you. You left me. I moved on, and I fell in love." "Fine, but this isn't over yet, Cory." "Oh, I think it is." With that, Cory stormed off, and continued his stroll with Lisa.
Early the next morning, Cory drove to Caleb's house, jumped out of the car, ran up the front steps, and pounded on the door. "Caleb?!" he shouted. "Open up, you bastard! I know you're in there!" Caleb threw the door open. "What?!" he snapped. "I know it was you," Cory growled. Caleb pretended to be confused. "What are you talking about?" "Don't play stupid with me, Caleb. I know you were the one that called Crysta, and told her about Lisa! How could you do this?! Why?! And, how the hell did you get her number?!" "I called her parents! They gave me her number!" "Why did you do this?! Are you trying to ruin my life?!" "I am trying to protect you!" "From what?! Lisa?!" "Yes! Crysta was the right woman for you. She won't hurt you like Lisa will!" "Oh, really? You mean, like when she moved to Pittsburgh without even telling me? Huh? You think that didn't hurt me?" "Lisa's a phony. She'll break your heart. I'm just tryin' to look after you." "No, you just don't like her, and I don't need you to protect me. I'm a grown man! I don't need protection from her! She is the best damn thing that's ever happened to me! Jeez, for the past couple of months, you've been trying to find ways to prove she's a fake! Well, you haven't had much luck, have you?! Yeah, just like you didn't have that much luck finding out my other friends were so-called 'fakes.' Admit it, Caleb. You just hate the best people in the world. You don't think there's a such thing as a genuine human-being, do you?" Later that day, Cory was having dinner at Lisa's house. He explained everything to her about Crysta and Caleb. "I just don't know how to get through to him," he sighed. "He won't let it go." Lisa slid her chair closer to Cory's, and wrapped her arm around his neck. "You did everything you could, and the fact that you stood up for both of us several times shows me how much you truly love me." "I do." Just as Cory was leaning in to kiss Lisa, the doorbell rang. "I'll be right back, Sweetie," said Lisa as she got up, sauntered towards the front door, and opened it. "Hello, Lisa." It was Crysta. "Hi, Crysta," Lisa said kindly. "Can I help you?" "Yes. I just came by to tell you it's not over between me and Cory." "Crysta—" "No, I mean it. He still loves me. He told me so." "When?" Lisa was always known for being a very gentle, nonjudgemental woman, but inside, she knew Crysta was not telling the truth. "He called me today. He said he wanted to run away with me."
Cory could hear every word from the kitchen, and he was furious. He slowly wandered into the front hall. "He said he couldn't stand you. He and I are both in agreement. You're a fake! You're a phony bitch!" "Shut up!" Cory screamed. "Cory, there's no need to be defensive," Crysta said in a phony, sweet tone. "I am not being defensive." Cory tried to prevent his tears from falling as he approached Crysta. "I am being angry. Why are you trying to hard to break me and Lisa up?" Crysta did not speak, but Cory could read her face. "Oh, my God. Caleb sent you, didn't he?" Crysta nodded slightly. "Get out!" Cory snapped. "What?" Crysta began pouting again. "That puppy dog pout's not working. I said get out. Get out of our house!" Lisa's jaw suddenly dropped. "Our house?" she enquired. "Get out! Now!" Crysta backed away from the front door, and turned around. "And, please… leave me and Lisa alone." Cory watched as Crysta walked away, and closed the door with a sigh of relief. Lisa looked at him, surprised. "Our house?" Cory smiled at Lisa. "Yes, our house. Lisa, I love you so much. I've loved you from day one, and with everything we've been through together lately, I fell even more in love with you. I realized that… I don't wanna spend another day without you by my side. I wanna be with you forever." He knelt down, and pulled a beautiful diamond ring out of his pocket. "Lisa McClanahan, will you marry me?" Lisa held out her left hand as Cory slipped the ring on her finger. She stared at the ring for a few seconds as her eyes filled with tears. "Yes!" she cried as she threw herself into his arms.
That night, Cory and Lisa fell asleep on the sofa, in the comfort of each other's arms. They both had the same dream. They dreamt of what their future together would be like. Cory would move into Lisa's beautiful home, and it would become their home. Cory would open up his own restaurant with Lisa's help. Lisa would sell her art work for the world to see. Along with that, she would record her own album, and publish her own poetry book. The two of them would touch many lives with their work, including the life of their son or daughter. They would grow old together. Cory would still look at Lisa, and see the most beautiful woman on the planet. Lisa would look at Cory, and still see a true saint. Although they may hit a few hard patches down the road, they would face them together, and nothing would ever tear them apart. The very next day, Cory went to have a talk with Caleb, only to find that he was not home. He drove to his parents' house, and rang the doorbell. Máiréad answered the door. "Hi, Sweetie!" she greeted cheerfully, throwing her arms around him. "Hey, Mom," Cory said glumly. "Is Caleb here?" Máiréad knew by the tone of Cory's voice that something was wrong. "Oh, no. What did he do now?" "He tried to break up me and Lisa." "Caleb Sullivan!" Máiréad shouted. "He should be down in a second," she whispered to Cory. Caleb ran down the stairs, still in his bathrobe. "What?" "You sent Crysta to break me and Lisa up," Cory said, nearly crying. "How could you do this?" Caleb opened his mouth to speak. "And, don't say you were trying to protect me. You weren't! You were trying to ruin my life!" "Caleb, how could you do such a thing?" Máiréad enquired, shocked. "I hate Lisa!" Caleb shouted. "She's so fake! She's all sunshine and cheery, and so perfect!" he said in a mocking tone. "Nobody who acts like that is really like that!" "Really?" Cory responded. "What about Mom? She's a lot like Lisa. So, is she a fake?" Caleb didn't know what to say. "She raised us our whole lives. Has she ever given you any reason to believe she was phony?" "No," Caleb said quietly. "Caleb, Lisa and I are getting married." Máiréad squealed happily. "I'm inviting Mom and Dad to the wedding. I'm not inviting you." Caleb scoffed. "Cory—" "No! I'm done with you! From now on, I want you to leave me alone, and I want you to stay the hell away from Lisa." "Cory—"
"No, we're done here." And, with that, Cory stormed off. For seconds, Máiréad stared at Caleb with so much shame and devastation in her eyes.
Lisa, Cory, and their friends and families spent the next month, planning and putting together their wedding. Cory and Lisa purchased roses of all colors —red, yellow, pink, white, orange, and lavender. Each color had a different meaning, and every meaning played a different part in the love between the two. Cory and James purchased the tuxedoes. Lisa and Chloe purchased the bridesmaid's dresses. Máiréad and Chloe helped Lisa choose a wedding dress. It was a beautiful, white, strapless dress with an elegant train at the back. Instead of a veil, Lisa decided to wear a white headband with white rose patterns. David and Máiréad purchased the rings, and called Reverend Bailey. They all decided to have the wedding at Northgate Christian Fellowship. In the wedding, the bridesmaids were Abigail Agnew, Lisa's longest voice student, and close friend, Siobhan McClanahan, her younger sister, and of course, Chloe Dempsey, Lisa's longest and closest friend. As for Cory's best man, who else would he choose, but his best friend, James Spencer? The flower girl was Irina Agnew, Abigail's baby sister, and the ring barer was Irina's twin brother, Nick. On the day of the wedding, in mid July, Lisa was in the bridal room with her mother, Mae. "I can't believe I'm finally getting married," Lisa wept happily. "I know," Mae agreed. "My little girl's all grown up." She took hold of Lisa's left arm. "Here," she said as she slipped a corsage on her wrist. "I wore one of these at my wedding. It made me feel even more beautiful. I think you should wear one, too." "Thank you, Mum." "I just want you to know how proud I am of you. Your father, your sister, and I are all so proud of you. We couldn't have asked for a more precious blessing than you, Darling." Mae sniffled, and wiped tears away with a handkerchief. "You are the kindest, warmest, and most beautiful person we know. We couldn't be more blessed, because you are our angel and our blessing from God. Now, you've blessed Cory and his family with your love and true beauty. You've touched so many lives with everything that came from your heart, and I know you will continue to do so." She tearfully gave Lisa a hug. "I love you," Lisa sobbed. "I love you, too, Baby," Mae sobbed. Finally, it was time for the ceremony to start. A breathless Cory stood at the altar, and watched as his beautiful bride floated down the aisle on the arm of her father, George. Reverend Bailey gave his sermon. "Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today, in the sight of God, to join Lisa Melody McClanahan and Cory Alexander Sullivan in holy matrimony. In our church are roses of many colors, each with different meanings. The white rose is a symbol of innocence and purity. The red rose is a symbol of true love. The pink rose is a symbol of grace and admiration. The yellow rose is a symbol of happiness, friendship, and harmony. The orange rose is a symbol of passion, energy, enthusiasm, and joy, and finally, the
lavender rose is a symbol of love at first sight. All these colors play important parts in marriage and love. Love at first sight is hard to find, but Lisa and Cory are living proof that it is not impossible. They are entering their marriage with purity and innocence. Lisa and Cory, may your life together be filled with passion, friendship, harmony, joy, grace, admiration, laughter, and most of all, may your life together be filled with true, undying love for one another. As you enter this marriage, and write a new chapter of your life, you may encounter difficult times. There may be tears, stress, and even illness, but if your love is strong enough, you will survive anything life may throw at you together." Then, they recited their vows. Cory looked into Lisa's eyes. "Lisa, I give you my loyalty, my fidelity, my soul, my heart, my love, and my life. Any suffering you may encounter, I will suffer with you. Any joy you may feel, I will feel it, too. I vow that I will always love you, and nothing will break us up. Whether we're far away from each other, or side-by-side, your song will always be in my heart, and I will sing it forever. You, Lisa McClanahan, are my angel, and my melody of life." Lisa beamed at Cory with tears of joy. "Cory, I give you my loyalty, my fidelity, my soul, my heart, my love, and my life. Any suffering you may encounter, I will suffer with you. Any joy you may feel, I will feel it, too. I vow that I will always love you, and nothing will break us up. Whether we're far away from each other, or side-by-side, your song will always be in my heart, and I will sing it forever. You, Cory Sullivan, are my saint, and my melody of life." "Do you, Lisa Melody McClanahan, take Cory Alexander Sullivan to be your lawfully wedded husband?" said Reverend Bailey. "Do you promise to love, honor, and cherish him, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness, and in health, for as long as you both shall live?" "For all of eternity, I do," Lisa replied. "And, do you, Cory Alexander Sullivan, take Lisa Melody McClanahan to be your lawfully wedded wife? Do you promise to love, honor, and cherish her, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness, and in health, for as long as you both shall live?" "For longer than eternity, I do," Cory replied. Finally, Lisa slipped the ring on Cory's finger, and looked him in the eye. Reverend Bailey gave Lisa and Cory a warm smile. "Unless anyone has any cause for objection," he said, "by the power vested in me by the state of California, I now pronounce you husband and wife. Cory, you may now kiss the bride." All the guests cheered, applauded, and wept as Cory leaned in, and kissed his bride, Lisa.
That night, after an exciting wedding reception, Lisa and Cory snuggled up together, in their bed, in their home, for the first time, as a married couple. "We did it," said Cory. "We finally got married." "Yep," Lisa replied, kissing him. "And, now, I finally get to lay in bed with you by my side." "I love that." "I love you." Lisa giggled. "I love you, too, Cutie-Patootie." Cory snickered, and turned red. "What?" Lisa continued giggling. "You're my Cutie-Patootie." "Stop," Cory flirted. "You're making me blush." "That's my job, Sweetie." She kissed Cory's neck. "Besides, you're cute when you blush." "You're just… cute all-around, all the time." Lisa giggled sweetly. "Awwww." "So, what do you wanna do tomorrow?" "I want to help you open your restaurant." "And, I wanna help you sell your artwork, and I'll find a recording studio for you to record your CD. I wanna help make each of your dreams come true." "I'll help you with yours, too." "I just want you to be happy. When you're a hundred years old, and you're looking back on your life, I want you to be happy with it." "And, the same goes for you, my angel." Cory sniffed the air. "What's that smell?" "What smell?" Lisa chuckled. Cory kept sniffing, and made a face. "Did you fart?!" "What if I did?" "Eww!" Cory and Lisa laughed as the spent the rest of the night in the comfort of each other's arms.
For the next few days, Cory and Lisa looked hard for a place to buy to turn into a restaurant. However, they didn't have to look for very long when they received a visit from David and Máiréad. "Hey, you kids," said David. "We heard you were lookin' for a place to open your restaurant in." "Yeah," said Cory. "We can't find any buildings for sale." "Well, you won't need to look any longer," said Máiréad, "and you won't have to pay anything." "What are you talking about?" asked Cory. "We're giving you our restaurant," said David. "I figured it would be the perfect wedding present." Cory exhaled excitedly. "Wow!" "Awwww, are you sure you want to give away your restaurant?" Lisa asked sweetly. "Absolutely," said David. "We've closed it down, so you can open your very own." "But, where will you work?" asked Cory. "We bought another restaurant," said Máiréad. "Don't worry about us. You just work on your dream. We can't wait to see it when you finish! Just let us know when the grand opening is, and we're there!" "Awww, thank you so much!" cried Lisa. "You're the best!" added Cory. They all joined in one big group hug. Later that day, Cory and Lisa sat down to draw and write out plans for their new restaurant. "Okay, what kind of napkins do you think we should use?" asked Cory. "I think cloth napkins would be the best choice," said Lisa. "It saves trees." "Yeah, I agree, and it saves money, too." "Yeah." "Okay, what about food?" "Well, I think we should have a large variety. Some people love meat, and some people are vegetarians. I think we should have a vegetarian section on the menu." "I agree. What about drinks?" "No alcohol." Cory laughed. "Yeah, I agree! Less drunk drivers mean less car accidents, and less car accidents mean less death." "Well said." "Okay, what about decorations? Why don't we go through your paintings and drawings, and choose the ones you want to display at the restaurant?" "Okay." "And, as for entertainment, how about you sing and play on Friday nights and Saturday nights?"
"Oh, I would love that." "I even have an old keyboard stored away that we can use. I'll have to see if it still works, but I'm pretty sure it does." Lisa looked at Cory in amazement. "You played the keyboard?" "Yeah." "You never told me that." "Well, I did," Cory sighed, "but… Mr. What's-His-Name got in the way." "Awww, Cory, I'm so sorry." "He kept telling me I sucked, until one day, I finally caved, and I put the keyboard away. I was too hurt to even look at it again. I was thirteen when it happened." "Oh, Baby." Lisa sweetly kissed Cory's cheek. "You know, playing the keyboard wasn't the only thing I loved doing. I loved singing, too, but he destroyed that dream, too. He always put down every dream I had when I was a kid." "Do you still have that musical dream deep inside you?" "Yeah, but—" "Cory, if you love playing music, don't let your brother hold you back. Follow your heart, just as you're doing now. I'd love to hear you play, and maybe we can play and sing together." "I would really love that." "Me, too." "Maybe we can play together at the restaurant." "That would be the night of my life." "Mine, too." Cory suddenly changed the subject. "Okay, so… what about a name?" Lisa closed her eyes, and thought for a moment. "Hmm, well, I think it should be about both of us." "How about… Lisa and Cory's?" Cory suggested. "I love it!" "Me, too!"
For weeks, Cory, Lisa, James, and Chloe worked hard to fix up the restaurant the way they wanted it. Cory hired Chloe as the chef, and James as his manager. Cory and Chloe wrote the menu together, and Lisa took lovely pictures of the food. Cory ordered cloth napkins, and Lisa decorated the walls with her beautiful drawings and paintings. Soon, the restaurant was finally ready for the opening. Cory, Lisa, James, and Chloe were so proud of their hard work. Two months later, it was finally time for the grand opening of Lisa and Cory's? About a half hour before the opening, Cory was just checking the restaurant to make sure everything was in tiptop shape. He smiled at Lisa. "Everything looks great," he said. "What do you think?" "It looks so beautiful," Lisa agreed as she kissed Cory. "We did a great job together, didn't we?" "Yeah, we sure did." Cory put his arm around Lisa. "Okay, so first, you get to sing. Then, we make a toast, and finally, you get to make your big announcement." "Okay." The opening was very successful. So many people came, and there was not a single unhappy customer. The food was delicious, and the atmosphere was very pleasant. When Lisa played the keyboard, and sang, there was not a dry eye in the room, and when she finished, she received a standing ovation. Afterwards, the applause died down, so Cory could make his toast. "Yeah, she was amazing, wasn't she?" he said. "Well, that's not the only thing she's good at. You see the artwork on the walls?" Everyone looked at Lisa's artwork in awe. "That's her work. She's the most beautiful woman in the world. She sings, plays guitar and piano, writes songs and poems, and she creates the most beautiful art you'll ever see. I couldn't have done this without her. She's a saint." Everyone applauded again. "Well, thank you so much for coming. I hope you enjoy the food, and I hope the service is great for you, too. Now, Lisa has an announcement to make of her own." "Hi, everyone!" Lisa greeted with a sweet giggle. "I'm so happy you liked my performance. I will be singing for you every Friday and Saturday night." Before Lisa could say anymore, everyone cheered and applauded. Lisa laughed. "Thank you! Thank you very much, but that's not my big announcement." Suddenly, everyone was quiet. "I have some big news. This couldn't have happened to my husband and I at a better moment, and let me just say how blessed I'm feeling tonight. I went to the doctor this morning, and I'm happy to announce that…" Lisa paused for dramatic effect. "I'm pregnant!" she exclaimed. Everyone screamed with joy and laughter as Cory took Lisa up in his arms, and twirled her around.
Lisa and Cory's was a very successful restaurant with many happy customers. The reviews were nothing but positive, and the ratings made it to four stars. On top of that, Cory and Lisa spent the next few months planning for the arrival of their new baby. They turned one of the spare rooms into a nursery. Lisa painted the walls a beautiful Kelly Green, and Cory built an adorable crib. The two decided not to find out what the baby's gender was. They decided to wait for the surprise.
Nine months later, Lisa was finally in the hospital, in labor, with her parents, sister, Chloe, James, Cory's parents, and of course, Cory by her side. It was a full house of one big family, ecstatic to meet the new baby. "How're you feeling, Sweetheart?" Máiréad asked. "I'm cramping," Lisa panted, "but I don't mind at all. I'm just so happy!" "Me, too," said Cory. "Are you scared?" asked Siobhan. "I'm a little scared, but in a good way. It's the feeling you get when things are changing for the better. It's scary, but it's wonderful at the same time. I'm a little scared, but I know everything will be okay." "I know it's gonna be okay, too," Cory agreed, "because we'll be raising this baby together. They'll have the best mother in the world." "And, the best father, too." "You'll do just fine, Sweetheart," Mae said sweetly. Just then, Dr. Nesbitt walked into the room to check on Lisa. "So, Lisa, how are you doing?" she asked. "Alright," Lisa panted. Dr. Nesbitt checked Lisa's dilation. "Looks like you're ready to push," she said. "You're fully dilated." Lisa spent the next half hour, pushing and screaming, but as painful as giving birth was for her, her heart was filled with so much joy and excitement. All the moral support from her family and the joy in her heart made those few minutes go by quickly. Finally, the baby was born. Cory looked at it with tears in his eyes. "It's a girl!" he cried. "Oh, I have a granddaughter!" Mae wept happily, smiling sweetly at the baby. "She's so beautiful! Lisa, I am so proud of you, Sweetheart!" Siobhan stared at the baby, and brushed back tears. "She's as beautiful as you, Lisa," she sniffled. "Aww, thank you, Siobhan," said Lisa, "but I think she's even more beautiful. I think she's as beautiful as you." "I can't believe I'm finally an auntie." "I think you'll make a wonderful auntie, and you'll make an even better mother someday. You're so wonderful with children." "Oh, dear God," George mumbled, "I'm Old Grandpa." Everyone laughed. "Oh, Daddy," Lisa giggled. "You'll be a wonderful grandfather." "I take it you're a family of angels," Cory joked. Lisa and her family laughed. "I was going to say the same about you, Cory," Siobhan giggled. "Siobhan, he's married," Lisa teased. Siobhan snickered. "Yeah, but I might steal him from you." "You better not, Edie Britt," Chloe scoffed jokingly. Everyone else burst out laughing.
"Okay, I'm gonna take your baby for a little while," said the nurse. "I'll be right back." After a few short minutes, the nurse returned with the baby, and she gently placed her in Lisa's arms. "Here you go, Lisa. She's all nice and clean." Lisa looked into her baby's eyes, and tears poured down her face. "She's an angel," she sobbed happily. "She's our angel." "That's our daughter," Cory said as he kissed Lisa. Then, he kissed the baby's forehead. "Have you decided on any names?" asked Chloe. "Naomi," Lisa replied. "Naomi means 'pleasant.'" "And, what about her middle name?" "I choose Orla," added Cory, "because that means 'golden.'" "Naomi Orla Sullivan?" Chloe enquired. "That's so beautiful, and it's perfect." "We're not finished," said Lisa. "We've been thinking about this for a long time. We've even talked to our families, and they're all in agreement." "About what?" "Chloe, we want you to be Naomi's godmother," said Cory. "We all talked it over," said Mae, "and we all agreed. Chloe, you have been a huge, important part of our family since we moved here from Ireland." Chloe brushed away tears. Mae continued. "You've been an extraordinary friend to, not just Lisa and Siobhan, but all of us. You're a strong, genuine, caring person, and we couldn't have chosen a better person to be Naomi's godmother." "We love you so much," added Siobhan. "Thank you so much," Chloe sniffled. "And, James, we also agreed on making you Naomi's godfather," added Cory. "Everything Mae said about Chloe applies to you, too." James grinned. "Thank you so much." "Well, except… I never lived in Ireland." Everyone else laughed. "Shh, Naomi's asleep," Lisa whispered. Everyone calmed down, and watched Naomi sleep so peacefully.
It had been five years since Lisa had given birth to Naomi. In that time, Lisa and Cory's marriage had only grown stronger. Their restaurant was more successful than ever, and their daughter, Naomi, had made a few friends on the playground. It was Naomi's fifth birthday, and Cory and Lisa had thrown an adorable birthday party for her. The whole family was there—both Lisa's and Cory's parents, Siobhan, Chloe, Abigail, James, Irina, and Nick, as well as Naomi's best friends, Hanna, Chelsea, Hayley, and Rachel. Lisa and Chloe cooked hotdogs, hamburgers, baked beans, potato salad, and green bean casserole, as well as baking and decorating a delicious, chocolate cake. Cory had bought beverages, such as sodas and juices, and party snacks, such as Doritos and potato chips. There were balloons and streamers all over the house, and the children were laughing and smiling. "Hey, kids!" Cory called. "Dinner!" The children ran to the dining room table. "Okay, we have hotdogs and hamburgers," said Chloe. "Who wants hotdogs?" Hayley and Chelsea raised their hands. "And, I guess the rest of you want hamburgers." The other girls nodded. "Lisa, Honey, do you want a veggie burger?" Cory asked. "Oh, no, thank you," said Lisa. "Are you okay?" "Of course." "You sure? You haven't been eating much lately." "I'm fine, Sweetheart." "Mommy, do you want some chips?" Naomi asked, trying to hand Lisa a handful of Doritos. "No, thank you, Sweetheart." "Honey, you should eat something," said Cory. "Well, okay," Lisa said hesitantly with a smile. "Here, Mommy," said Naomi. Lisa took the handful of chips. "Thank you, Baby." She ate the Doritos very slowly. After dinner, Cory lit the candles on Naomi's cake, and brought it to the table as everyone sang Happy Birthday. "Alright, Naomi," said Chloe. "Make a wish, and blow out the candles, Cutie." Naomi did so, and everyone clapped. "I hope your wish comes true, Sweetheart," Lisa said sweetly. "I made a wish that you and Daddy will live for a long, long time," said Naomi with a sweet smile. "Awww, we will, Sweetheart," Lisa cooed.
"Yeah, we're not going anywhere," said Cory. "We love you way too much." "I love you, too, Mommy and Daddy." Naomi blew a kiss. Cory and Lisa blew kisses back at Naomi. "Awww," Abigail cried, "how precious!" "Well, I guess it's time to open presents!" Máiréad exclaimed excitedly. "Yay!" the children cheered as the whole group gathered in the living room. "This is from me and Grandma," said David, placing a gift bag in Naomi's lap. Naomi ripped the tissue paper out of the bag, excited to see what was inside. She pulled out an iPod with a set of headphones. "What's this?" "It's an iPod, Sweetie," said Máiréad. "You can put lots of music on it, and listen to it with your headphones." "I'll show you how to use it," said Cory. "Cool!" said a happy Naomi. "Thanks, Grandma and Grandpa!" "Alright, Naomi," said Mae, handing Naomi a small, wrapped gift. "This is from me and Granda." Naomi tore the paper off. It was a DVD of Celtic Woman's debut concert. "Celtic Woman!" she cried out ecstatically. "Thank you!" "I knew you'd like that," said Mae. "I'll see about getting you the rest of their DVDs." "Thank you!" "You're very welcome." "I think you're gonna like this one," said Cory, placing a wrapped box in Naomi's lap. "This is from Mommy and me." Once again, Naomi tore through the paper. Inside the box was a beautiful Barbie doll with long, dark hair, green eyes, and a sweet smile. She wore a long, white, strapless dress with matching shoes. "She's pretty," said Naomi. "Does she look like anyone you know?" asked Chloe. Naomi looked at the doll for a few more seconds, and smiled at it. "She looks just like Mommy." "Yep," said Cory. "D'you want me to help you get her out of the box?" "Okay," said Naomi. "Thank you, Mommy and Daddy." Cory opened the box, and released the doll from all the wires and tape. Then, he handed the doll to Naomi, along with the white hairbrush that came with it. "Here you go." "Is it okay if I sleep with this Barbie every night?" asked Naomi. Lisa tried to hold back tears. "Absolutely," she said warmly, kissing Naomi's forehead. "Happy birthday, Sweetheart," Cory said gently.
After opening the rest of her presents, eating cake, and playing with her friends, Naomi was very tired, and she was ready for bed. She had a wonderful birthday, so she knew she would sleep well. She changed into her nightdress, brushed her teeth, used the bathroom, and climbed into bed with the doll she called her "Mommy Barbie." She snuggled up with her Mommy Barbie. "I love you, Mommy," she said as she closed her eyes. "I love you, too, Baby," said Lisa, who was standing in the doorway, watching her little girl slowly fall asleep. "Good night, my sweet, little angel. Happy birthday." She blew a sweet kiss to Naomi, and gently closed the door. Naomi had sweet dreams, because she couldn't see what her mother hid beneath that beautiful smile. She couldn't see that there was something going on with her mother. Something was physically wrong with Lisa, but little Naomi was too young to realize her mother wore a smile as a mask. Therefore, she had sweet dreams. Lisa sauntered into her and Cory's bedroom, and closed the door behind her. "Hi, Sweetheart," she said softly. "Lisa, come here," said Cory. "I wanna talk to you." "Okay." Lisa crawled into bed with Cory, and snuggled up in his arms. "What is it, Baby?" Cory sighed, worried about Lisa's reaction. "I noticed something today." "Yeah?" "I actually noticed it for a couple weeks now." "What?" "You haven't been yourself." "What do you mean?" "Well, you haven't been eating much, and you don't seem to have as much energy as usual. Have you been feeling sick lately? I mean, 'cuz if you are, I'll take you to see a doctor." Lisa did not answer. She just closed her eyes, and thought for a moment. "I just want you to be okay." Lisa opened her eyes, and looked at Cory. "I have been feeling sick lately, and I've been trying to overcome it by ignoring it. I was hoping it would go away. I was trying to keep my strength for you and Naomi." "Oh, Sweetheart." Cory kissed Lisa's cheek. "You've really been a trooper, but if it's not going away, I'll take you to see a doctor. I'll call the hospital in the morning, and try to get you an appointment. You don't have to try so hard to be okay when you're not. Okay?" "Okay, Sweetheart." The next day, during the afternoon, Chloe volunteered to pick Naomi up from preschool, and babysit her, while Cory took Lisa to the hospital for her appointment. "What are your symptoms, Mrs. Sullivan?" asked Dr. Gundersen. "Are you experiencing loss in appetite, abdominal pain, or anything like that?" "Yes," said Lisa, "and I've been nauseous."
"Any fatigue?" "Yes. It's actually been getting a bit worse." "Have you been vomiting?" "She threw up this morning," said Cory. "Have you taken any medicine for these symptoms?" asked Dr. Gundersen. "I've tried nausea medicine," said Lisa, "but no change." "And, you say this has been going on for a couple weeks?" Lisa nodded. "Yes." "Well, I'm hoping it's nothing serious, but just in case, I'd like to run a few tests. I noticed your urine is darker than usual." "Okay." "Now, where is your abdominal pain?" "It's in the upper right area." With that, Dr. Gundersen felt a bit concerned. "Okay, I don't want you to panic. I don't know for sure, but it sounds like there may be something wrong with your liver. I'd like to schedule an MRI as soon as possible. When are you available next?" "If we can do it today," Cory suggested, "that would be great. I wanna make sure my wife's okay." "Well, I'll check the schedule, but I'm ninety-nine percent sure we have an open spot for your wife," said Dr. Gundersen. "Thank you, Dr. Gundersen," said Lisa.
For the next few days, Lisa waited for her test results while trying so desperately to hide her sickness from Naomi. She did not want to scare her, but Naomi could finally see that her mother was wearing a mask. She could hear her mother vomiting at night, and she could see her mother felt miserable. Finally, Naomi approached her mother. She found her in the living room, resting on the sofa with the television on. "Mommy?" she asked, trying not to cry. Lisa sat up, and saw the sadness and worry on Naomi's face. "What's wrong, Sweetheart?" "Are you sick?" Lisa sighed. "Yes, I am. I went to the doctor, the other day, so I could figure out why I'm so sick." "Why are you sick?" "I don't know yet, Sweetie. Sometimes, it takes a while before they know what it is." A sudden flood of tears shot out of Naomi's eyes. "Are you going to die?" "Oh, Sweetie, come here." Lisa leaned over as Naomi came close, and picked her up. She held her on her lap, stroked her hair, and held back tears. "I don't know what I have yet, but I can promise you this. I will fight whatever it is as hard as I can, so I'll be around for a long time. I think the best thing you can do for me is pray. I'll pray, too. I'll pray that I live a long life, so I can take care of you and Daddy. Okay?" "Okay, Mommy." "I don't want you to worry about me right now. I just want you to play with your toys, be with your friends, and enjoy what you have with Daddy and me. I want you to enjoy being a little girl, until we absolutely know what it is that's making Mommy sick." "Okay, Mommy." "Okay, Baby." Lisa kissed Naomi's nose, held her in her arms, and dried away her tears. "It's okay, Sweetheart. It's okay." Three days later, Lisa had another doctor's appointment, this time with Dr. Devereaux. Cory and Lisa were waiting nervously in the doctor's office when Dr. Devereaux walked in. "I have your test results, Mrs. Sullivan," he said in a glum tone. "Oh, God," Cory moaned. "I don't like the sound of this." "It's not good." Lisa did her best to be brave. "It's Hepatocellular Carcinoma." Cory's jaw dropped. "Liver cancer?" The doctor nodded. "It's stage four." "How come we didn't know about this sooner?" "Well, usually, in the earlier stages, there are little to no symptoms." "What can we do?" asked Lisa.
"We can try chemotherapy, but I'm not sure how much good that'll do. The cancer has advanced so far. The tumor's wrapped itself around the liver, so I'm afraid the best we can do is a liver transplant." "How long?" Cory asked, terrified of the answer. "Without the transplant, I would say she would have six months maximum, but if we can find a match for a liver transplant, she's looking at a long, healthy life." "I'd like a liver transplant," said Lisa. "I promise you, Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan, we will look very hard for a donor, and we'll do everything we can for you." "What could've caused the cancer?" asked Cory. "Well, it could be genetic. Is there any history of cancer in your family, Mrs. Sullivan?" Dr. Devereaux asked. "My grandmother had liver cancer," Lisa replied. "I guess it skips a generation." "Well, like I said before, we will do everything we possibly can to save your life, Mrs. Sullivan. In the meantime, take it easy, and just spend time with your family." "Thank you, Doctor," said Lisa. When Cory and Lisa arrived home, they both worried about how they would tell the rest of their family, especially Naomi.
That night, Lisa was tucking Naomi into bed. Naomi looked at her mother with so much worry in her eyes. "Mommy, what's wrong with you?" she asked, frightened. Lisa took a deep breath. "I have liver cancer." "What's that?" "Well, the liver is an important part of your body, and you can't live without it. My liver has a tumor wrapped around it, and it's ruining it. I need a new one." "Are you going to die?" Naomi sobbed. "I don't know yet, Sweetie," Lisa said as she herself started crying. "I hope I won't die, because I would miss you and Daddy so much. I can't promise I won't die, but I can promise you this. I will fight this cancer as hard as I can, so I can live. I will do whatever it takes, and if I lose the battle and die, I'll still be with you. I'll watch over you from heaven, and you'll always have me right here." She pointed at Naomi's heart." "So, if you die, you'll be an angel?" "Yes." Cory stood in the hall, and listened to the conversation between Lisa and Naomi. It brought tears to his eyes. "Will you watch everything I do?" asked Naomi. "Well, maybe not everything," Lisa giggled. "I won't watch you when you're using the bathroom. I don't think you'd like that very much." Naomi laughed. "But, let's not worry about this yet, because I might get a new liver." "Okay." "Do you want me to read you a bedtime story?" "Yes, please, and will you sing to me after that?" "Absolutely." Lisa picked up a sketch pad off the floor. "I wrote this story just for you. Actually, I drew it for you. I'll show you the pictures, and you tell me what you think are in them." "I guess them?" "No, you tell me what you see, and what you see comes from your heart. Tell me what they look like in your heart. Can you do that?" "Yes." "Okay." Lisa opened the sketch pad to the very first page, and showed Naomi a drawing of a little girl in a beautiful, pink dress with her mouth wide open. "What do you see in that picture?" Naomi looked at the picture for a few seconds. "It's me!" she exclaimed. "And, what does it look like you're doing in this picture?" "I'm singing." Lisa turned the page, and showed Naomi a picture of the same little girl, still wearing the same dress, and still with her mouth wide open. Only this time, there was something flying blue above her head. "What's this a picture of?" she asked. "It's me singing," said Naomi, "and there's a bird singing with me."
Lisa turned the page again, and showed Naomi another picture of the same little girl, still in the same dress, with her mouth wide open, and the bird above her head. This time, there was a beautiful lady in the picture, wearing a long, white dress, also with her mouth open, and this lady wore a pair of wings on her back. "What's this?" "It's an angel," said Naomi. "Who do you think that angel is?" "You." "Me?" Lisa giggled. "Why do you think it's me?" "Duh, I thought you are an angel." Lisa laughed. "Oh, Naomi, you're so precious. Okay, what am I doing in the picture?" "You're singing with me and the bird." Lisa turned the page one last time, and showed Naomi a picture of the angel with her arms and wings around the little girl. The little girl no longer had her mouth open, but the angel did. "Now, what's this, Baby?" she asked, trying to contain her emotions. "You're hugging me, and singing me a lullaby," said Naomi. Lisa brushed tears from her eyes. "Do you know what this story means?" "You're an angel?" "Well, yes," Lisa chuckled, "but it also means I'll always be with you, no matter what happens." "Thank you, Mommy." "You're welcome." Lisa took the Lisa doll down from Naomi's dresser, and brushed its hair. Then, she handed it to Naomi. "Here, Sweetie," she sniffled. "I want you to sleep with this doll every night. I want you to feel safe, and I want you to feel like I'm with you all the time." "Okay, Mommy." Lisa climbed into the bed with Naomi, and held her close. "I'll sing to you, now," she said. She kissed Naomi's forehead, and sang her a sweet lullaby. Naomi had fallen asleep by the time she finished. "Good night, my sweet angel," Lisa whispered as she kissed Naomi one more time. Cory kept watching Lisa with Naomi, and he wept silently. It was as if he was in heaven, watching an angel comfort a crying child. Then, he was suddenly brought back to Earth by the sound of the doorbell ringing. He tried to dry all his tears as he approached the front door. He opened it, and saw a man he hadn't seen in six years. His jaw dropped open in shock, and he nearly lost his breath. "Caleb?" "Hey, Cory," said Caleb.
Cory suddenly felt anger building up inside. "What the hell are you doing here?" he growled. "I came to rescue you," said Caleb. "From what?" "I was right, wasn't I? I knew Lisa would hurt you." "What are you talking about?" "I heard Mom on the phone. You called to tell her Lisa hurt you, didn't you?" "No." "Don't deny it. You know I was right about her all along. She's a fake, isn't she?" "How dare you," Cory snapped. "She didn't do a damn thing to hurt me. Ever since we met, she's been nothing but honest and faithful, and she's given me no reason to believe she's fake." He heard Caleb's car door open and close, and saw who was walking up the yard. "What did you do?" "Hi, Cory," greeted Crysta. "I'm trying to rescue you," said Caleb. "You just won't listen to me, will you?" Cory scoffed. "I'm so sick of having to explain to you that Lisa is not a fake! She never hurt me!" "Then, what was that on the phone?! Why did you call Mom, begging for sympathy?!" "Because, Lisa is sick!" "What?" Caleb was confused. "Yeah, she has stage four liver cancer! Maybe you should've stayed, and asked Mom was the problem was?! You never listen to anyone else's side of the story! You only care about yours, so no, Lisa didn't do anything to hurt me, Caleb Sullivan! You did! You did everything in your power to take Lisa away from me, but you lost. You're not taking her from me." Little did Cory know that the sound of the doorbell woke Naomi up, and she was standing at the top of the stairs, listening to the conversation. She burst into tears when she heard what Caleb was trying to do. She lay down on the floor, and sobbed. Cory heard his daughter's cry, and his heart sank. "I have to go," he snapped. "My daughter needs me. Step back." He slammed the front door in Caleb's face, and ran up the stairs. He knelt by Naomi's side, and caressed her hair. "What's wrong, Sweetheart?" Naomi sat up, and looked at her father with her soaking wet face. "Why is that mean man trying to take Mommy away?" she wept. Cory hugged Naomi. "I don't know, Sweetheart. For some reason, he doesn't like her, so he thinks she'll do something to hurt Daddy." "But, she won't, right?" "Of course not. Mommy is the nicest lady in the world, and we love her very much." "Who was he?"
"Well, believe it or not, he's my big brother." "He's a bad brother." "Yes, he is, but Naomi, I don't want you to be scared anymore. He'll never take Mommy away from us. I promise." Lisa came out of the bathroom after brushing her teeth, and saw the look on Naomi's face. "Oh, Sweetie, what's the matter?" she asked. Cory sighed. "Caleb came by, and scared her. She thought he was gonna try to steal you away from us." "Oh, my poor baby," Lisa said sweetly as she knelt down by Naomi and Cory. "Please don't leave, Mommy," Naomi wept. Lisa wrapped her arms around Naomi, and held her close. "Sweetheart, Caleb's always picked on Daddy. He's always tried to hurt him, but you don't have to worry about anything. Mommy's not going anywhere. He won't take me away from you or Daddy, because I love you both too much. I would never leave you. You're my babies." "You promise?" "I promise from the bottom of my heart. I will never leave you. Nothing in this world could ever take me away from this family, not even this stubborn cancer." "Okay." "Now, let's get you back into bed," Cory said gently. "I gotta go bathroom." "Okay." Naomi ran to the bathroom, and Cory and Lisa looked at each other with heavy hearts. "Oh, poor Naomi," said Cory. "What was Caleb thinking?" "I know," Lisa said sympathetically. "That must've scared Naomi to death." "It did." "Aww, bless her heart." "He doesn't scare me." Lisa giggled, and kissed Cory. "He doesn't scare me, either." Then, Naomi came out of the bathroom. "Okay, I'm finished," she said. "Okay," said Cory as he stood up. "Let's get you to bed." He picked Naomi up in his arms, and carried her to bed, with Lisa following behind. He laid her down in the bed, and he and Lisa both tucked her in. Lisa placed the doll in Naomi's arms, and they both kissed her good night. Meanwhile, Caleb was driving Crysta home. Crysta did not want to look at him. She just stared out the window. "You're pretty quiet," Caleb remarked. "Something wrong?" Crysta turned around, and glared at Caleb. "I can't believe you did that!" she scolded. "What the hell is wrong with you?!" "Wow, I thought you wanted to be with Cory." "Yeah, six years ago!" "I was trying to do something nice for you."
"No, you were trying to hurt your brother! Before you threw me in the car, I was trying to tell you something, but you wouldn't shut up!" "After all I was trying to do for you—" "Oh, don't give me that bullshit! You don't get to lecture me about being ungrateful after what you did to Cory and Lisa! You don't get to be mad at me!" "Why?!" "If you would've just shut up before grabbing me earlier, you would've heard what I was trying to say to you! I've moved on! I've learnt to let go now! Cory obviously loves Lisa, and I accept that now!" "I was trying to protect him, and I was trying to give you what you wanted!" "No, you were being an ass! You've been trying to find something wrong with this Lisa woman, but you haven't, have you?! You can't find anything about her that'll 'hurt' Cory, can you? You're just trying to ruin his life." "I did find something wrong with her." Crysta just scoffed. "She's got cancer, hasn't she?" Crysta slapped Caleb. "You sick bastard!" "Oww!" "I can't believe you! That woman is dying, and you don't even care! You're so selfish, you idiot! You make me wanna puke!" "Look, Crysta—" "Go to hell. Just—just shut up, and go to hell."
The next day, Lisa spent the day in bed, feeling ill and tired. However, it was Friday, and therefore, her night to sing at Lisa and Cory's. That night, Cory went to the restaurant, and Chloe came to stay with Lisa after she finished her shift. Chloe entered Lisa's bedroom, and knelt by the bed. "Hey," she said gently. "How you feelin'?" "Okay," Lisa said weakly. "You can cut the act, Sweetie," Chloe teased. "I know you feel like crap." Lisa giggled. "Yeah, I do." "I'm sorry you have to miss your night at the restaurant." "It's okay." Meanwhile, the customers at the restaurant were waiting anxiously for Lisa to sing for them, but they knew something was up when Cory took the microphone. "Uh, hey… guys," he said glumly. "I'm really sorry, but Lisa won't be here tonight." "Awwwwww!" the crowd sighed. "I don't know if any of you know this, but she's very sick. She's been sick for a while, but we didn't know what was wrong with her, until yesterday. This is so hard for me to announce." Cory swallowed. "She has cancer." Every jaw in the restaurant dropped in shock. "It's stage four… uh… liver cancer. She's in bed right now, resting, so she can rebuild her strength. I don't know about tomorrow night, but I'm hoping she'll be here then. In the meantime, I'd like for all of you to pray for Lisa, please, and… if you're not the praying kind, at least keep her in your thoughts. I believe she can survive this, but still, please think about her. If you wanna send cards or gifts, I have put our home address on the bulletin board in the foyer. Thank you for your understanding." Everyone hung their heads and their heavy hearts over their plates of delicious food, and wept. Back home, Chloe brought Lisa a cup of hot chocolate she had made. "Here you go," she said, placing the cup on the nightstand. Then, she noticed Lisa flipping through a photo album. "Watcha lookin' at?" "I'm just looking at our friendship scrapbook we made in high school and college," said Lisa. "Oh, can I look with you?" "Of course, you can." Chloe flipped to the very first page, and smiled when she saw a beautiful drawing of herself. "Remember that drawing?" she asked. Lisa looked at the drawing, and nodded. "It was the very first drawing you made of me." Chloe chuckled. "I was this awkward kid with really low self-esteem, but you made me feel so beautiful. When you drew that picture, you changed my entire life." Lisa smiled sweetly. "You are a beautiful person, Chloe. I wanted you to see that."
"I remember you drew that when we first met. Remember?" Lisa and Chloe remembered the day that marked the beginning of their friendship. They were both sixteen years old. It was Lisa's very first day in an American high school. During lunch, Lisa was wondering around the cafeteria, looking for a table to eat at, when she saw Chloe at a table, all by herself. Lisa approached the table. "May I sit with you?" she asked sweetly. Chloe looked up from her lunch, surprised. "Really?" she enquired. She "Yes." "Okay, sure." Lisa pulled out a chair across from Chloe, and sat down. "I'm Lisa." "I'm Chloe." Lisa smiled at Chloe. "Nice to meet you." "You, too." Chloe was awkwardly quiet for a moment. "Are you okay?" asked Lisa. "Yeah, I'm fine," Chloe said nervously. "Why're you sitting all by yourself?" "I always sit by myself. Where else would I sit? Nobody wants to talk to me." "Why?" "I'm a loser." "Why do you think that?" "It's what everyone else thinks. I'm the nerdy, ugly, unpopular freak without friends." "I doubt that." "It's true. All the hot, popular girls make fun of me, and none of the cute guys even know I exist. Even the average kids make fun of me. Nobody wants to be my friend." "That's horrible." "Why are you talking to me? Is it just pity?" "No. I'm actually new here. Today is my first day here." "Are you from Ireland?" "Yes. My family just moved here." "I like your accent." Lisa giggled. "Thank you." "So, why did you choose me to be your first friend?" "I just went with my heart." "What do you mean?" "I was just looking for a place to sit, and I saw you here by yourself." "So, it is pity?" "No, because when I saw you by yourself, I knew this was a girl who needed someone to remind her of how beautiful she truly is." "You think I'm beautiful?" "Yes." Lisa dug through her backpack, and pulled out a small notepad and a pen. "What're you doing?" asked Chloe. "I love to draw, so I'd like to draw something for you."
"You like drawing, too?!" Chloe asked excitedly. "Yes." "Wow, I gotta see this!" Lisa laughed, and started drawing. When she finished, she carefully tore the page from the pad, and handed it to Chloe. Chloe looked at the drawing, and nearly burst into tears. "Is that me?" "Yes, it is." "I'm really that beautiful?" "Absolutely. Chloe, God made no mistake when he created you." "Wow," Chloe exhaled as she placed the picture next to her plate. "You know, I may not know you very well, but I already know I wanna be your friend." "I guess the feeling is mutual." "So, do you wanna come to my house on Friday? I have some really cool movies, and we can eat junk food if you want." "I'd love to." Lisa and Chloe laughed together when they remembered that special day. "Didn't we start the scrapbook when you came over that Friday?" asked Chloe. "Yes, we did." Lisa flipped to the next page, and showed Chloe a picture of the two of them together. "See? Your mum took that picture of us that night." "Oh, yeah, I remember now." "Do you remember the promise we made to each other?" "We swore that nothing could ever break up our friendship, not even a deadly disease." "Mm-hmm." Chloe stared at Lisa for a moment, and brushed tears from her eyes. She sighed heavily. "Lisa?" she said, choking up. "I don't want you to die. I don't want you to give up on me… or Cory… or Naomi… or anyone. I want you to fight this, and I want you to live. I'm not gonna let you die on me, Lisa, because damn it, I need you." She sunk her head under Lisa's arm, and bawled. "I need you so much, Lisa! You're my sister! Please don't die on me." Lisa caressed Chloe's head, and burst into sudden tears. "I won't die on you, Baby. I made a promise to Cory and Naomi that I would fight this cancer with all my might, and I'm making that same promise to you. I'm making that promise to my whole family, and I intend to keep that promise." Chloe continued sobbing as she climbed into the bed, and snuggled up in Lisa's arms. They both cried as they held each other tight. Naomi entered the room with a camera, and took a beautiful picture of the two of them. "This is for your scrapbook, Mommy," she said cheerfully.
In the morning, Máiréad was in her kitchen, putting together an arrangement of flowers from her garden, and making a get-well card, when a sleepy Caleb wobbled in. "Morning, Mom," he yawned. "Good morning, Sweetheart," Máiréad greeted cheerfully. "Watcha doin'?" "I'm making a get-well bouquet for Lisa." "Oh." Caleb turned away. Máiréad put down the vase of flowers, and turned to Caleb. "Look, Sweetie, I know you have issues with Lisa, but she's sick. The last thing she needs is drama." "Mom—" "Honey, you don't really know her. You took one look at her, and decided she was fake. You made the same judgement about James. Why do you have to judge so harshly?" Caleb did not answer. Máiréad could see in Caleb's eyes that he was hurting. "Caleb? What's going on?" Caleb sighed. "I once knew a girl like Lisa when I was in college. I was nuts about her. We… dated for… a year. I, uh… thought everything was going great." He swallowed to keep from crying. "Then, one day… she was gone. She just… left without saying goodbye—no warning or anything. I… never got over it, so… I just… thought… Lisa was just the same." "Oh, Sweetheart." Máiréad hugged her son. "I'm so sorry. Why didn't you ever tell me?" "I was trying to forget about it. That's why I never told anyone." "Well, I'm glad you told me, because I need to be honest with you. That girl wasn't as wonderful as she seemed if she just left you without even a decent goodbye. She'll never know what she's missing out on, because she made the wrong choice. She decided to take the easy way out, but Sweetie, Lisa is different. She's genuine. She's a great wife, and an excellent mother. Have you ever taken the time to sit down, and actually get to know her?" Caleb shook his head. "Well, I think it's time you do, because when you finally realize how wonderful she is, it'll be the greatest blessing in your life. You'll finally get to be a part of Cory's family again, and you'll get to know your beautiful niece. Isn't that what you want, to be a part of the whole family again?" Caleb took a moment to think about his mistakes, and he realized just how much he missed his brother. He realized how much he hurt him and Lisa, and he wanted so badly to meet Naomi for the first time. During the afternoon, Caleb picked a few flowers from his mother's garden, and arranged them into a vase. He drove to Cory's house, and carefully carried the bouquet to the front door. He nervously rang the doorbell, and paced around the porch, until Lisa opened the door.
Lisa was surprised to see Caleb at her door with a vase of flowers. "Caleb? What are you doing here?" she asked. "I—I wanted to bring these by for you," Caleb stuttered. "They're, uh, getwell flowers. I picked them myself." He handed the flowers to Lisa. "Aww, thank you." "I… also came by to say I'm sorry. Can I come in?" "Of course. Come in." Caleb stepped into the house. Lisa closed the front door, and the two of them sat on the sofa in the living room. "So, where's Cory?" asked Caleb. "He and Naomi went out for ice cream," said Lisa. Caleb hesitated before he spoke. "I was wrong about you," he said nervously. "I shouldn't have judged you without even knowing anything about you. The first time I met you, I automatically decided you were fake, and I was wrong. It's just… I knew a girl like you once, but she broke my heart." While the two were talking, Cory and Naomi returned home, and quietly stood outside the living room, listening to the conversation. Caleb continued. "We were together for about a year before she suddenly… disappeared without any warning. She didn't even bother to say goodbye. What really hurts is… she promised she'd never leave me, but she did. I haven't heard from her since." "Oh, Caleb, I'm so sorry," Lisa said sweetly. "Since then, every time I met someone like her, I try to avoid them, because I didn't wanna get hurt again. I tried to protect Cory from it, too." He scoffed. "I can't believe I almost ruined his life. Now, he's not even talking to me. I don't blame him. I mean, it's my own damn fault. I'm so sorry, Lisa. I was wrong about you. Truth be told, I'm proud to have you in the family. I'm proud to call myself your brother-in-law, but if you can't forgive me, I'll understand." Lisa wrapped her arm around Caleb's neck. "Oh, Caleb." She kissed his cheek. "I've already forgiven you. I forgave you from the start, because I wanted you to be a part of the family." "Wow," Caleb chuckled, "you really are genuine." "I believe you're a good man, because I can see it in your eyes. I've always seen it in your eyes." "Thanks, Lisa." "Come here." Lisa hugged Caleb, and kissed his cheek once more. "God bless you, Caleb." "You're forgiven," said Cory. Caleb turned around, and faced Cory and Naomi. "I heard what you said, and I appreciate it." Cory slowly paced in front of Caleb. "I could tell it was sincere, and if Lisa can forgive you, so can I." "Me, too," added Naomi. Caleb stood up, and looked Cory straight in the eye. "Thanks, bro." "Welcome back to the family." Cory and Caleb shared their first brotherly hug in years.
That evening, Crysta had just come back home from the flower shop, carrying a large bouquet of roses and candy. She sat at her desk, and placed the flowers to the side. She opened her drawers, pulled out a pen and paper, and began writing a note. In the meantime, Chloe was having dinner with Cory, Lisa, and Naomi. "So, he finally came to his senses?" she asked. She was referring to Caleb. "Yep," Cory replied. "Good, because he was really starting to piss me off." "Well, it's over now," said Lisa. "He's part of the family." "That's great." Just then, the doorbell rang. "Excuse me," said Lisa as she got up from her seat, and answered the door. It was Abigail. She was holding a bouquet of balloons and roses, and hanging from her left arm was a gift bag with smiley faces scattered all over it. "Hi, Abby!" Lisa greeted. "Hi, Lisa," said Abigail. "I heard about your cancer, and I wanted to give you these." She handed the gifts to Lisa. "I hope you feel better very soon." "Awww!" Lisa cried. "Thank you, Abby!" She leaned over, and kissed Abigail's cheek. "You've done so much for me in the past fifteen years, and I just wanted to do something for you in return. You taught me that there's music inside me. I believe you have enough music inside of you to survive this cancer." "Oh, Abby, come here!" Lisa threw her arms around Abigail, and gave her a big hug and a wet kiss on the forehead. "Bless your heart. Thank you so much." "You're welcome." "Would you like to come in? We're just having dinner with Chloe. Would you like to join us?" "Sure. Why not?" Meanwhile, Crysta was driving through town, heading for Lisa's house, when a reckless driver appeared out of nowhere, and rammed her car before she could even pull over to the side of the road. Back at the Sullivans', Lisa was opening her gift from Abigail. It was a CD with Abigail's beautiful picture on the cover. "Oh, Abby," Lisa sighed, "did you record this yourself?" "Yes, I did. I chose a bunch of songs that meant the most to me, and I composed and sang my own arrangements of them. They come straight from my heart." "I can't wait to listen to them." "Have you recorded your own CD yet? I know you've been wanting to." Lisa sighed sadly. "No, not yet. I've been so busy raising Naomi." "Well, I think you should do it." "Yeah, she's right," agreed Cory. "You can do it during the day, when Naomi's in school. I'll even pay for the studio time."
"You don't have to do that," said Abigail. "I have a professional studio set up in my house." Lisa beamed at Abigail. "Abby, you don't know what this means to me." "No, I think I do." Abigail giggled softly. "Thank you so much." "Oh, I made a little card for you, too." Abigail dug through the tissue paper inside the bag, and pulled out a folded sheet of paper. "I'll read it to you." She unfolded the paper. "It's a short poem I wrote for you. 'I was once a baby bird with no voice, wanting to sing to the heavens, but not knowing where to start. You were the angel who taught me that music lives within my heart, and you gave me the strength to let it be heard. Now, I look to the heavens, and I sing God's music. I praise him for sending me the Angel of Music. Now, I pray that he will heal you with his gentle hands. Just keep singing his music, and you will heal.'" Lisa, Chloe, Cory, and Naomi applauded. "That was beautiful, Abby," said Lisa. While they were talking, and enjoying their dinner, the phone rang, and Cory answered it. "Hello? Oh, hey, Caleb." His jaw suddenly dropped open. "Oh, my God. Okay, we'll be there in twenty minutes. Okay. Bye." He hung up the phone, and for a moment, he stood still. His heart began pumping rapidly, and he took a deep breath in and out. "Cory, what's wrong?" asked Chloe. "There was an accident," Cory stuttered. "Crysta's in the hospital."
The five of them rushed to the hospital to visit Crysta. Cory dropped Naomi off in the playroom, so she wouldn't feel frightened. Dr. Carron led the four down the hall to Crysta's room as she explained her condition. "Ms. Rosenberg's brain is bleeding severely," she said. "We're taking her into surgery as soon as possible, but… there's a chance she may not make it." "How did this happen?" asked Chloe. "A drunk driver rammed her car, and she slammed her head against the windshield." "Oh, poor thing," Lisa said sympathetically. "We usually don't let non-relatives in pre-op, but she requested to see you. She said it was very important." "Thank you, Dr. Carron," Cory whispered as they all entered Crysta's room. Cory approached the bed, and leaned over Crysta. "Crysta?" he whispered. Crysta opened her eyes, and smiled when she saw Cory and Lisa standing around her bed. "Hi," she greeted weakly. "How you feelin'?" "Like crap," Crysta chuckled. Cory scoffed. "Yeah, I would imagine." "Listen, I wanted to tell you I'm sorry for causing you and your family so much trouble. I didn't mean to hurt anybody." "Nah, that's okay. Besides, Caleb told me how you kicked his butt." Crysta giggled. "He also told me how he finally made peace with you and Lisa… finally." "Yeah, it's great to have my brother back." "I actually let go a long time ago. I saw how happy you were with Lisa, and I told myself that if I loved you, I could let you go. I want you to be happy. I miss you so much, but I know you made the right choice. Lisa's an awesome person." Lisa giggled. "I can hear you talking about me," she teased. The others laughed softly. Crysta continued. "Anyway, I'm really proud of you, Cory Sullivan." "I'm proud of you, too," said Cory. "You finally brought me and my brother back together." "Well, actually, I wasn't the only one." "Huh?" "Your mom helped, too. He told me all about it." "I knew she would." Cory grinned. "She's the best mom in the world." "Where's Little Naomi? I wanted to meet her?" "Oh, I left her in the playroom with the other kids. I didn't want her to get traumatized." Crysta laughed. "I understand. Will you send her my love?" "Definitely."
Dr. Carron re-entered the room. "Okay, guys, it's time to get her prepped for surgery." "Okay," said Cory. "Bye, Crysta. Thanks for everything." Cory was just about to walk out the door, when Crysta stopped him. "Wait, Cory?" she said. "Yeah." Cory turned back around. "I love you… and your whole family—you, Lisa… everybody." "We love you, too." "Yes, we love you very much," said Lisa, gently patting Crysta's shoulders. "You'll be alright. We'll keep you in our prayers." Then, they left the room. Crysta held out a folded sheet of paper to Dr. Carron. Dr. Carron took the paper, opened it, and read it. She put it in her coat pocket, and smiled at Crysta as an anaesthesiologist carefully sedated her. Then, both doctors wheeled her to the OR.
Just as Cory and Lisa were heading for the playroom to pick Naomi up, Lisa suddenly felt very weak and ill. "Cory, I feel sick!" she panted. They both stopped walking, and Cory placed his hand on Lisa's shoulder. "Do you need to stay here?" "I think so." Lisa put her hand on her forehead. "I feel very hot." She suddenly fainted, and Cory caught her. "Oh, my God," Cory trembled. "We need a doctor!" he shouted. A team of doctors lifted Lisa into a hospital bed, and rushed her to an ER. Minutes later, Lisa opened her eyes, and saw Cory and Chloe standing over her. "Where am I?" she whispered. "You're in the hospital," Cory replied. "What happened?" "You passed out." "Oh, that's right." "Are you okay?" asked Chloe. "I don't know. Where's Abby?" "She's in the playroom with Naomi," said Cory. "Sweetheart, we don't have to talk if you need rest." Lisa suddenly burst into tears. "No, I need to talk," she wept. "What's wrong, Sweetheart?" asked a worried Cory. Lisa sobbed for a little while, and then, looked Cory in the eye. "I'm scared, Cory." Cory leaned over Lisa, and wrapped his arms around her. "I don't want to die. I'm so scared." Cory climbed into the bed, and held Lisa in his arms. "Shhh." He wiped away her tears, and consoled her. "It's okay." "I don't want to leave you," Lisa sobbed. Chloe comforted Lisa. "Lisa, you won't leave us. You will survive this. You know how I know this? You're strong. You're a strong person, and you can kick this cancer's ass." Lisa smiled a little as she continued crying. "Lisa, you were the one that taught me anything's possible. You were the one who made me believe in myself. You made me believe that the sky is not the limit, and you were right. You made me realize how strong I am. Now, I'm telling you the same thing. Lisa Sullivan, anything is possible. You can do anything, and the sky is not the limit. You can beat this cancer. You can do anything. I believe in you." Chloe slowly started crying as she spoke. "I believe in you, Lisa! I believe in you! We all do! We all love you, and we know you will survive this!" Lisa and Cory smiled at Chloe. Chloe and Cory held Lisa, and let her cry on their shoulders. "It's okay, Sweetie," Chloe cried. "We're right here. You don't have to be scared anymore." She kissed Lisa's cheek, and stroked her hair.
Chloe and Cory continued to comfort Lisa for the next couple of hours, until she fell asleep in their arms. Hours later, Lisa was in surgery. Cory and Chloe were waiting in the playroom with Abigail and Naomi. Dr. Carron walked in with Crysta's note in her hand. "Cory Sullivan?" "Yes?" Cory responded. "Can I see you for a minute?" "I'll be right back, Sweetheart," Cory whispered to Naomi as he stepped into the hallway. "Is something wrong?" he asked Dr. Carron. "I'm afraid I have some not-so-good news concerning Crysta Rosenberg," said Dr. Carron. "Oh, God," Cory worried. "What happened?" "Her brain stopped working before we had a chance to operate." "Meaning?" "Her body is still alive, but she's brain-dead. I'm very sorry." Cory felt very sad. "She did make a request before we took her into surgery." Dr. Carron handed Cory the folded note. Cory opened the note, and read it. An hour later, Lisa woke up to see her whole family in the room. Cory smiled at her. "Lisa?" "Hi, Cory," Lisa whispered. "You're cancer-free." "I'm cancer-free?" It took a few seconds for the good news to sink in. When it finally did, she burst into tears of joy. "I'm cancer-free!" she exhaled, relieved. Everyone in the room rushed to Lisa, and threw their arms around her, so thankful to see her in good health again. At that moment, Dr. Carron entered the room, carrying Crysta's bouquet of roses and Candy. "Mrs. Sullivan?" "Yes?" "These are for you. They're from Crysta Rosenberg." She brought the bouquet to Lisa. "Thank you very much," said Lisa, gently taking the bouquet from Dr. Carron. "These are beautiful. How is Crysta doing?" "She didn't even make it to the surgery," Cory sighed. "Oh, Sweetie, I'm so sorry." Lisa blew a kiss to Cory. "Her brain stopped functioning," said Dr. Carron, "so she was your liver donor. She made a request before we took her into the OR. If she didn't make it, she wanted you to have her liver. We did some tests, and found she was an excellent donor for you." "She saved your life, Lisa," Cory said with a sweet smile on his face. "What an angel," Lisa cooed. "Oh, but Cory, I'm so sorry you had to lose her. You were just becoming good friends again." "She'll always be my friend, dead or alive," said Cory. "She'll always be our friend, and now, you have a piece of her inside of you."
"I wouldn't be here without it." "Let's not think about what would've happened without Crysta," Chloe suggested. "You're here," said Mae. "You're alive, and you're healthy again. I couldn't be more grateful." "Me, either," said Lisa. "Oh, I love you all so much, and I'm so happy you're all here." "Awwwwww!" everyone sighed. "Cory?" Lisa singsonged. "Yes?" Cory answered with a goofy grin. "Get over here, so I can kiss you." Cory blushed as he leaned over Lisa, and they shared a sweet kiss together. He looked into her eyes. "I love you so much." "I love you, too, Baby." Lisa caressed Cory, and kissed him again. "Okay," she said as she dug through the candy inside the bouquet flower pot. "Who wants candy?" Everyone gathered around the bed as Lisa shared lollipops and Tootsie Rolls with them.
Lisa stayed in the hospital, resting, until the next day. Meanwhile, her friends and family, along with many happy customers, were at the restaurant, preparing a surprise party to congratulate her on beating her cancer. Chloe cooked the food, and baked a rather large cake. Siobhan, Máiréad, and several customers decorated the restaurant with balloons, flowers, and a large sign that said, "Cancer can be beaten, and Lisa kicked the crap out of it!" James and Caleb finished putting together a website. Cory sat at the computer with James and Caleb. "Hey, what's that?" he asked when he saw the website. "I've been working on this website for months," said James. "It's for Lisa. It's her official website." "Really?" Cory enquired, intrigued. "Yeah, it has all her poems, and there's even a store where people can buy her art." "Wow." "She can decide what she wants to put on here. I just set it up for her." "And, I'm helping," added Caleb. Cory browsed the website with James. "This is really cool. Lisa's gonna love it." "I hope so," said James. "So, when people buy her artwork, does the money go to us?" "Yep." "Wow, you did a great job." "Thanks, man." "And, Lisa can go through her artwork, and pick what she wants to sell?" "Yep, and she can write her biography, post whatever pictures she wants in her gallery, and she can add more pages to her website, like maybe a blog page, a video page, and other stuff." "Does she have a place where she can post recordings of her music?" "Yep, under the Media page. That's where she can post her videos, too." "Cool." Finally, Lisa had checked out of the hospital, and took a cab to the restaurant. When Cory saw her getting out of the car, he motioned for everyone to hide under the tables as he turned out the lights, and hurried outside to meet her. Lisa ran to Cory, and jumped into his arms. "Oh, Cory!" she cried blissfully, kissing him passionately. Cory held Lisa for a moment, and kissed her. "Welcome back, Sweetheart." He carried her inside, and turned the lights back on. Everyone jumped out from under the tables. "Surprise!" "Oww!" Chloe shouted after hitting her head on the table. She rubbed her head. "Are you okay?" asked Siobhan. "Yeah, I'm good," Chloe giggled.
The biggest, brightest, and sweetest smile appeared on Lisa's face. "Awwwww!" she squealed. "Thank you so much!" George held up the sign, and Lisa burst out laughing, making everyone else laugh. "We're so proud of you, Lisa," said Chloe, "and we're so thankful that you're still alive." "I'm happy to be alive, too," Lisa agreed. "How do you feel?" asked Caleb. "I feel wonderful." "No pain from the surgery?" "None at all. In fact, I feel better than ever. I feel so alive." "That's wonderful, Dear," said George. "I feel so lucky, because God has given me so many blessings—my artistic ability, my musical ability, my health again, and most importantly, my family. I have a wonderful mother and father, many beautiful brothers and sisters —not just blood siblings, the most amazing husband whom I believe God sent to me from heaven, the most beautiful, precious daughter in the world, and so many more people who are big parts of my family. I believe you all made me stronger. You made me believe I could survive this cancer, and I did. I don't think I could've done this without you. I am so grateful to have so many people in my life who love me, and did not let met suffer this alone, even though it broke their hearts. I can't tell you how sorry I am for breaking your hearts with my illness, but nevertheless, you stayed by my side through it all. I guess the best way I can make it up to you is by making a promise that, if you ever have to go through any difficult times, whether it be sickness or heartbreak, I will be by your side through it all. That is a promise I intend to keep forever. I love you all so much, and I'm so blessed to be standing before you today, free of illness. You are all my angels, and in return, I will be your angel." She brushed a few tears away. "May God be with you, and may he bless you forever." There was dead silence for nearly five seconds. Every person in the room was in awe. Then, they all arose from their seats, cheering and applauding with tears of joy spilling from their eyes as Cory threw his arms around Lisa, and the two kissed passionately. Naomi flew into her mother's arms. "Mommy!" she cried out. Lisa gave Naomi a big, wet smooch on her cheek, and cuddled her in her arms. Cory enfolded them both in his arms, crying in ecstasy. The next day was the start of an overnight success for Lisa. She ended up selling some of her artwork online, and making a great amount of money. She finally recorded her own CD, and publishing a book of her most cherished poems. She even held her own art sessions, where she drew and painted portraits of people of all shapes, sizes, and colors, to show them how beautiful and special they truly were. Her art and music touched so many lives across the globe, especially Cory and Naomi's. Six months after her liver transplant, a cheerful Lisa came home after rehearsing for an upcoming concert, carrying her guitar in one arm, and a magazine on the other. "Cory!" she called. "Naomi!"
"We're out here!" Cory responded from the backyard. Lisa strolled outside, and found Cory and Naomi, sitting by her magical garden. "I have something to show you," she said as she opened the magazine to the page she wanted to share, and placed it in Cory's lap. "It's a review of everything—my art, my music, and my poetry." She set her guitar against the side of the bench. Cory read the review, and was flabbergasted. "Wow!" he exclaimed. "That's the best review I've ever read." "What does it say, Daddy?" asked Naomi. "It says your mommy's a saint." "Good, 'cuz nobody writes mean things about my mommy," Naomi growled in an adorable, evil tone of voice. Lisa and Cory laughed. "That's not the best news," said Lisa. "What else?" asked Cory. Lisa sat down, next to Naomi, and gazed into Cory's eyes, beaming. "I'm pregnant." Cory lost his breath. "Are you serious?!" "Yes." "We're having another baby?!" "Yes!" Lisa squeaked. "You mean, I'm gonna be a big sister?!" Naomi asked eagerly. "Yes," Lisa giggled, "and you'll be a wonderful big sister!" "Thank you, Mommy." "Are you excited?" "Yeah!" Naomi cheered. Lisa giggled. "Is it a boy or a girl?" "We don't know yet. I've only been pregnant for two weeks. It always takes a while before we know for sure." "I can't wait to see the baby." "I can't either, Sweetheart," Cory agreed. "Neither can I," added Lisa. Cory rested Lisa's head on his shoulder with Naomi sitting between them. "Well, I guess you can call us the perfect family. We have perfect lives. All our dreams are coming true. I'm the owner of a successful restaurant, and you're a professional artist, singer, and poet. We have the most beautiful daughter on Earth, and we have another baby on the way. We have everything we ever wanted." He sighed blissfully. "Whoever said you couldn't have it all?" "I don't know," Lisa said softly. "Well, whoever it was, they're dead wrong." " Anyone can have their own melody of life." Lisa picked up her guitar, and played and sang a beautiful melody. Her angelic voice reached the birds in the trees. They flew around the garden, and sang along with her. Her sweet music reached the heavens, and when she finished her song, she enfolded Naomi and Cory in her arms. "I love you both so much," she whispered.
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